Human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov, already serving a 23-year prison sentence, now faces additional jail time for reading out an 11th-century poem in court, according to Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service.

As he sat in the dock during a court hearing in October, Yorov read out a stanza from a classic poem by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

The passage goes something like this:

With these ignorant few who foolishly

Consider themselves the intelligent ones of the world

Should be donkeys, because they are so deep in donkeyness

That they call “blasphemous” whomever is not a donkey

Eyewitnesses who were present in the Dushanbe courtroom say the reading led to a heated exchange between the defendant and the prosecutor.

Days later, Yorov and his co-defendant and colleague, Nouriddin Mahkamov, were found guilty of the main charges they faced: inciting social unrest and issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government.

Both lawyers dismiss the charges, which stemmed from accusations made against them after they defended members of an opposition party.

Yorov's days in court weren't over, however, because he soon learned that his poetry reading had led to fresh charges of contempt of court and insulting a government official.

The charges -- each of which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison -- are being heard in a closed-door trial that began on December 12.

Yorov has faced a litany of charges since his arrest in September 2015. His arrest, related to the charges he was found guilty of this October, came just after he had begun to represent 13 senior members of the now-banned Islamic Revival Party (IRP) accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

The day prior to his arrest, he had gone public with a claim by IRP deputy leader Umarali Husaynov that he had been beaten in custody.  This November, he was charged in a separate fraud case whose trial date has not yet been set and for which he faces two years.

Yorov is among a number of attorneys and legal professionals in Tajikistan who have faced charges after representing opposition figures and government critics, leading human-rights groups to conclude that the charges have been trumped up as retribution for their work, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reports.

Yorov's co-defendant Nouriddin Mahkamov, who worked for Yorov's Sipar law firm, was sentenced to 21 years in prison.  Like Yorov, Mahkamov represented arrested IRP officials.